Rose bead History

history of rose beads

Lady Rosary Santiago

Were rose beads first made as prayers counters by early Christians?
I have heard some people say making rose beads dates back to the very beginning of rosary making in the early church.  But after some deep looking, I have found that, although this is a romantic idea, it does not seem to be the case.  Early rosaries were made of amber, coral, pearls, jet, wood, dried berries, and filigree beads.  Rosebeads do have a history, but first…

Let’s start with the history of using beads to count
All religions have found the need for a counting device for prayers.  There are stone sculptures as early as 185 BC that show Hindu Sages with rosaries in their hands.  Some scholars say that Hindus used prayer beads 9 centuries before Jesus’ birth.  Buddhists also predate Christians in using beads for counting prayers.  Apparently, the Desert Father and Mothers, Christian monks and nuns who lived in communities in the desert in the 3rd century, mostly used bags of stones to count their prayers, but there are also records of using a board with small holes in it, much like a cribbage board.  Prayer beads and prayer strings with knots in them were commonly found in monastic communities in the 500-600s.

So when did people start making beads from roses?
There is no documentation that mentions rosaries made from roses before the 1920s.  So this counts as a more or less “modern craft.”



8 thoughts on “Rose bead History

  1. What is the name of your book? I am interested in ordering a copy. Please send detail of how to obtain a copy.
    Thank you,

    • The name is Rose Beads – Everything you need to know about making beads from your wedding and other special occasion flowers, and my name is Elyn MacInnis. But you can see a picture of the cover of the book right there on the website. If you click on it, you are taken directly to Amazon.

  2. I just started making rose beads recently and just ordered your book. I’m thrilled that i have a friend that owns a flower shop and I can get discards. I wonder about the history. There is no doubt that rosaries were used in the Middle Ages by the wealthy and the poor. I would imagine that the wealthy used precious and semi-precious stones and wood. Do you suppose there is no written documentation of the poor using rose beads because their life just wasn’t deemed exciting enough to document and the empiric evidence disintegrated? Or would they have been more likely to use the rose petals in cooking instead of bead making?

    • Debra – How wonderful that you have a friend who will give you discards. What a blessing! And thank you so much for ordering the book.

      About the history. I did quite a bit of research online and in the library, and there is no evidence that anyone made rosaries out of roses until recently. I had really hoped to find something, because I like the idea – romantically – but I just haven’t found any evidence at all. Sigh. Rosaries, being very precious, and a connection to God, were usually made of precious things, amber, coral, pearls, jet, wood, and dried berries – an obvious choice – and filigree beads. You can find more online in the “history of rosaries” sites. It looks like the first rosaries made from roses were made in the 1920s. Thanks for writing!

      If you ever come across anything, please let me know.

        • Yes – our crafter friends who research crafts in history show no reports of using roses to make rosaries until recent times. But they might have done so without it being written down.

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